Hello Everybody, Joey and I just got back from a work-travel-holiday thing in London, Berlin and Poznan (Poland) and so we thought we would share some of our pictures. You can see a ton of them below, but here are the highlights and a rundown by Anna.
First of all, I was in London taking part in a manual writing sprint about editing video using Free Software. I stayed on the Stubnitz, a former shipping vessel made in 1960’s East Germany. The Ship was pretty amazing on its own, but the contrast with the area where it was docked, Canary Wharf, was stunning! Here are my two favourite pictures of the outside of the ship.
The trip was lots of hard work, and we wrote what promises to be a really great manual (my chapters are on Kdenlive) and we had a lot of fun too. My favorite fun part was the Algorave on Friday night, which was on down in the ships cargo hold / night club. All in all, The Stubnitz is amazing, but its only in the UK for a few more weeks now. There will be an Algorave on the last night, so well worth a trip down there if you can make it!
Anyway, I got back from London at about 1.30 am on the Sunday morning and by 2pm the same day Joe and I were off to the airport to go to Berlin. Anna had some meetings to attend in the FSFE offices, so we decided to make a holiday out of it.
Berlin is an amazing city, there so much light and space (and lots of Vegan food) and we had a really good time. We went on a bus tour and also did some sightseeing “by feet” (as my German friends would say). We met a dog who got paid for being fussed (left) and saw some stunning buildings. We also found out that while most of the buildings look quite old, actually, many of them were rebuilt after the war right through to the 1980’s and 90’s.
Even today, buildings are being rebuilt to their original designs. We also saw, once prompted, that there are still many signs of WW2 in Berlin today, particularly bullet holes in buildings and statues. The Statue (right) is next to The Brandenburg Gate, and he lost something kinda essential that way… lost his privates… poor chap!
We also visited the Holocaust Memorial near The Brandenburg Gate. It was a very strange place, an odd mix of stillness and noise, big silent stones, light and shadow mixed with locals picnicking in the sun and American tourists in socks and sandals. The contrast between the abstract calm and the mundane busy is amplified by the sudden changes from one to the other: because of all the corners, you can be suddenly alone and then suddenly surrounded by people again. It wasn’t at all the deeply contemplative place I have imagined. Below is my favorite photo of the Memorial, it’s totally deserted except for the foot of someone just about to walk into shot. I like it so much because it made me realise that the battle between irritation and contemplation which the memorial creates is very much part of the artwork, and has lots of lessons to teach us.
Anyway, Joey and I love Berlin and can’t wait to visit again. However, we decided to squeeze a few days in Poland into our trip before we headed home!
We chose to visit Poznan because it was the closest big city to Berlin. While it is mostly industrial, we found it was really beautiful and interesting. Like Berlin, large parts of the city that look to be old are actually rebuilt. This area of the old town was totally leveled in the war, but it has been re-made beautifully, with modern designs but old materials.
We really liked the attitude of the Polish, for example, the tourist shops sold quite a lot of handmade things, paintings, pottery and sculptures, for example, rather than just standard souvenir stuff. And also, many of the people in the countryside build their own houses – and they build them just the way they like them. So, in any given hamlet there can be houses with totally different styles from different countries and eras all in a row – it was really fascinating to see. We found some really amazing things in Poznan too – for example, we went to look at the cathedral, and it turned out to be the birthplace of Christianity in Poland. We saw a kind of font there, a large stone basin, dated around the year 900 AD! It was really beautiful and probably one of the oldest spiritual artifacts I have ever seen.
We also saw a clock on the town hall which has two wooden goats that come out at midday and have a fight, that was pretty cool, and we had yummy pizza and beer in a pub that had saddles instead of bar-stools!
We really did have a wonderful trip, but it was totally exhausting! We are just going to go camping for the next few holidays, keep things nice and simple 😉 Anyway – for now, farewell from London, Berlin and Poznan!
Joey and I are always looking for ways to be greener, but our pets can be really naughty when it comes to the environment.Sasha and Shep, the rescue dogs, were forever destroying their toys – to be fair to them, it’s not willful destruction… but the cats, well, ripping their little toy mice to bits is their absolute favorite thing! Before we set up Ethical Pets, we didn’t really know how to address these problems, we seemed to be endlessly throwing broken toys away and buying more, and the local pet shops sadly weren’t much help with our sustainability quest.
However, now we run Ethical Pets things are much simpler! In this article, we will take you on a whistle-stop tour of some of our recycled, up-cycled and recyclable pet favorites.
Pretty much all of the Ethical Pets toys are up-cycled, recycled or recyclable – and our pets just love them! The dogs, for example, love their super tough Zogoflex Toys, and we love them too, because we know that if they ever manage to wreck them, we can recycle it with ease (and get a free replacement!).
Also, the cats adore their little woolly mice, and we love them too, because they are up-cycled from reclaimed yarn (and with a charity donation to boot). Much greener than the average cat toy!
Bowls, litter trays and food scoops.
Even things as basic as pet bowls can be totally eco-friendly – when we needed to get some new ones (because our old ones were too small) we bought some of the Ethical Pets Beco-Bowls, which are made from waste rice husks and sustainably grown bamboo. Up-cycling waste plant-matter like rice husks means the bowl is not only green to start off with (because its not made of plastic) but it will biodegrade in the garden when it’s old and ganky. Perfect 🙂 BecoThings make cat bowls, small-to-large bowls and large slow feed bowls, litter trays and scoops and food scoops too. Each time one of our long-serving (but not very green) plastic items needs replacing, we replace it with a BecoThing!
Our personal favorite recycled product range are the lovely soft beds: made from 100% recycled plastic (used plastic bottles) these beds are super soft as well as super eco 🙂 There are beds just the right size for cats, rabbits and smaller dogs, right up to the large and squishy giant mattress. Also, our eco Vet Bed is great for the car or for older dogs who need something warm and accessible.
There are other things to consider too, for example, pet product packaging. The products we sell all come from companies with an eco mindset, so packaging is usually minimal and eco-friendly. As for our own packaging, you can see a full summary here, however, in short, its mostly re-used and/or recycled cardboard with a little degradable plastic and a little bubble wrap. As eco as we can for now (and always getting better!)
All in all, there are lots of recycled, up-cycled and recyclable products for your pets. Job well done eh?!
Joey and I are keen to start cycling, and we think this Project in Birmingham is really great! They have so much to offer so its well worth a look if you live locally (Anna’s Grandma lives in Erdington by the way, another reason we love this project so much). In putting together our cycle themed newsletter we have learned loads about how green cycling is, how useful bikes are and the cool stuff can be done with your bike when its old. All in all, we are pretty impressed with bikes! This is What Bike North Birmingham had to say:
NB: THIS PROJECT HAS NOW ENDED
Bike Everyone is part of the Bike North Birmingham project and we are making it easy for residents of Erdington and Sutton Coldfield Constituencies to get on their bikes! With cycle routes in and around the area and with more to come – our aim is to make cycling more accessible for the ‘may be’ cyclist’, whether it’s cycling to work, to the shops or purely for pleasure and fitness.
Bike North Birmingham was launched in April 2012 and in its first year up to December 2012, and despite the poor weather, we managed to attract over 350 adults and families on to our leisure rides. Over 112 adults took part in the Learn to Ride Programme over 100 bikes have been loaned out for up to 6 months giving people the opportunity to really think about buying a bike for good. The short term hire bikes have been loaned out over 250 times and many people have reported that thanks to the project their travel habits are changing and they feel they are becoming fitter as a result.
To help people discover the joys of cycling, we offer:
FREE bike hire:
For individuals, friends and families, borrow a bike for the day and get out and explore some of the parks and cycle routes in the North of Birmingham. Bikes are available from our two new cycling hubs at Erdington and Wyndley Leisure Centres.
FREE long term loan of bikes:
Need a bike to get to work or help cut the cost of getting around? Thinking about buying a bike but not sure? Borrow one of ours for a few months to help you decide!
FREE cycle training:
If you’ve never ridden a bike before or haven’t cycled for a while, or maybe you just need a confidence boost, book some sessions with us!
FREE Commuter training:
Do you want to be more confident on the road and perhaps cycle to and from work, we can help with 1 -1 training!
FREE Leisure Rides:
and other cycle activities
Fun group rides with qualified Ride Leaders for cyclists of
FREE Cycle maintenance classes:
Learn some basic maintenance to keep your bike in a good condition
Some up and coming activities for you to join in with in the next couple of months are:
Easy Riders Cycling Group – a Wheelie Friendly way to cycle!
Weekly on Wednesdays at 10am
Normal Starting Point: Brookvale Park
Level: Gentle – Moderate
Cycling around and about from the tranquil Brookvale Park and other locations. Why not come along to enjoy a sociable and satisfying morning bike ride?
Health and Fitness Rides
Weekly on Thursdays at 10am
Starting Point: Brookvale Park
Level: Gentle – Leisurely
Do you want to Lose Weight? Stop Smoking? Get Fit? Cycling can help! So why not get on a bike and ride towards a healthier lifestyle? Feel great about yourself!
Aston Hall for Tea
Sunday 16th June 2013 at 11:30am – 1:30pm
Starting Point: Brookvale Park by the Sailing Club, B23 7SL
Level: Leisurely/ Moderate
Cycle back in time to 17th Century surroundings; feel refreshed from time in the tea rooms and a wander around the idyllic gardens and grounds. 10% discount in tea rooms!
Find The Fort by Bike
Starting Point: Erdington Leisure Centre [Pool], B24 9EJ
Fri 14th June at 12pm – 1pm and Sunday 7th July at 10am – 11am
Find out how quick and easy it is to get to The Fort Shopping Park from Erdington by bike!
Lots more rides on www.bikenorthbirmingham.org.uk (website has now changed hands) – don’t forget to book by calling us on 464 1020
FREE Basic Cycle Maintenance courses and workshops
Our five session courses will introduce you to basic cycle maintenance in a relaxed and supportive environment. You don’t need any experience, just the desire to get hands on and skilled up!
Courses cover: Puncture repairs, replacing inner tubes, headsets, handlebars and stems, set up and adjustment of brakes and gears and how to index them too.
Tuesdays 7pm – 8.30pm
4th ,11th,18th,25th June, 2nd July at Kingsbury School and Sports College, B24 8RE
Wednesdays 7pm – 8.30pm
5th , 12th. 19th, 26thJune, 3rd July
Clifton Road Youth and Community Centre, B73 6EB
To book any of our activities call 0121 464 1020
Activities open to Leisure Card holders residing in Erdington and Sutton Coldfield Constituencies.
One of our favourite books, How Bad are Bananas? By Mike Berners-Lee, has some sensational cycling facts. This month, subscribers to our newsletter get the chance to win a copy! You need to sign up for your chance to enter. When you get your newsletter, there will be a question in it, simply reply with the answer, and winners will be picked out of the hat! 🙂 Good luck!
Our favourite fact is that it would be greener to drive a hummer than to cycle after eating air freighted asparagus! Checkout our cool graph below comparing a few bike fuels (food) to some other forms of transport.
Cycling to work
Another interesting fact is that a congested commute in an average car comes in at 2200g CO2e per mile. This is much much worse than normal driving – almost as bad as your air freighted asparagus mile. So, the lesson is that cycling to work is a serious planet saver… so long as you don’t eat asparagus out of season for breakfast!
Food and Carbon Footprints
The carbon footprint of food is always interesting to us at Ethical Pets, with folk claiming we should eat our pets to save the planet, we think its important to show pets can be green too.
In the graph you can see that veg isn’t always greener, but that in general, meat is much more carbon heavy that veg. The same trend is clear in the rest of the book, for example, we learned that a 4 ounce steak makes more carbon than a 6.5 kg bag of carrots! Or, for the same carbon as a 2 kg leg of lamb, you could eat milky porridge every day for 4 whole months. Oats, wheat and even naughty old rice are much lower in carbon than any meat.
Over the past few months we have have focused on the extremes of the whole animal kingdom. This month however we are going to look at one particular group: the birds!
In previous months you’ve seen the fastest birds and the smallest, but did you know that the largest and strongest living bird is the North African ostrich? Males can be up to 274cm tall and weigh 156kg, and when fully grown they have one of the most advanced immune systems of any animal. Ostriches also hold the record for biggest eyes of any land animal, the biggest egg, as well as having the longest stride and fastest sprint on land.
Here’s a whole flock of avian facts: The bird with the longest migration is the Arctic Tern which travel a distance of 22,400km. The highest flying bird in the world is the Bar-Headed Goose which has been seen flying as high as 10,175m. The bird with the longest wingspan (of 3.63m) is the Wandering Albatross, which is also the largest “tubenose” species. The bird with the fastest wing beat is the Horned Sungem, a hummingbird from South America who’s wings flap 90 times a second. The slowest flappers are the New World Vultures averaging one per second. The fastest swimming bird is the Gentoo Penguin found on the Antarctic Islands which can swim at 40km per hour and the bird with the longest lifespan is the Macaw, with a recorded age of 109 years old!
One final flying fact… did you know that, before mankind arrived, the only mammals in New Zealand were three species of bats. Over it’s 65 million year isolation from any other land mass, New Zealand became a land of birds. The ecological niches normally occupied by mammals as different as wolves, kangaroos and rodents, were filled instead by reptiles, insects, and of course birds. Want to read more articles like this?Sign up to our newsletter!